Jose Mourinho admits Virgil van Dijk is irreplaceable for Liverpool and has compared the defender’s importance to Tottenham forward Harry Kane.
Mourinho faces the Premier League champions tomorrow evening as Spurs take on Liverpool in the capital, with the visitor’s title defence in jeopardy following a winless run of five league fixtures.
Liverpool’s season has been blighted by a succession of injuries with the Reds’ most notable absence that of Van Dijk, the centre-back ruled out for the majority of the season after sustaining an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury in October.
Jurgen Klopp’s options were further depleted following a subsequent long-term injury to Joe Gomez and the German has since utilised a number of players at centre-back, including midfield duo Fabinho and Jordan Henderson and inexperienced teenager Rhys Williams.
Mourinho, however, believes the loss of Van Dijk has been the most detrimental factor in Liverpool’s stuttering title defence and says the Netherlands international is as irreplaceable to Liverpool as talisman Kane is to Spurs.
“We had a period where we played Lucas every minute of every match. We lost Son, we lost Kane, we lost Bergwijn we lost everybody. Lamela, everybody. How did we manage? Miracles.We cannot do it,” Mourinho said at his pre-match press conference.
“You have to try to compensate with what you have. Liverpool when you speak about Van Dijk you cannot replace. There are some players you cannot replace. It’s like when Harry Kane was injured. You cannot replace Harry Kane. You cannot replace Van Dijk. You can only replace Van Dijk with Van Dijk.”
Spurs currently sit sixth in the Premier League and can move above Liverpool with victory over the Reds tomorrow evening, the north Londoners currently one point behind the out-of-form champions with a game in hand.